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Teen Was in US 1 Day When Md. Apartment Exploded

Bitseat Getaneh's boarding school tuition money went up in flames, along with cash and her belongings

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016)

    Four months after a devastating explosion killed seven and injured dozens at a Maryland apartment building, one teenage survivor who lost two family friends and all of her belongings says she is hopeful for the future.

    Bitseat Getaneh, 17, had arrived to the United States from Ethiopia Aug. 10, the day before the blast. She was set to stay with family friends at the Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring for a few weeks before moving to Oklahoma to attend a boarding school.

    "It was my dream for two years to come to the United States," Getaneh told News4.

    But Getaneh's American dream was quickly shattered. She woke up to the explosion and fire during her first night at the Flower Branch Apartments. Getaneh managed to make it out, but her family friends, 40-year-old Saeda Ibrahim and 34-year-old Aseged Mekonen, died.

    "They were so nice to me. I met them, like, only that day. But they were so nice to me," Getaneh said.

    Getaneh also sustained injuries during the blast. Scars cover her arms, hands and face.

    "I'm happy because I'm alive," she said.

    The deadly natural gas explosion destroyed several apartments and displaced more than 50 families. Getaneh's boarding school tuition money, $2,000 in cash, went up in flames along with all of her other belongings.

    Despite her injuries and losing her tuition money, Getaneh remains determined and plans to continue to pursue her education. Her friends have launched a GoFundMe page to help her raise the money.

    "I want to continue my life, like it used to be," she said.

    Getaneh's mother flew from Ethiopia to comfort her, and they now live in a new neighborhood.

    Getaneh's lawyer, who was provided by the immigrant rights organization CASA, said he filed a lawsuit on her behalf against Washington Gas and K Management to pay for her medical bills and lost property.